Flashback Fridays: Elementally yours . . .

You’re a young kid living on a farm.  A peasant.  Nobody special.  And then a villainous warlord destroys your life and his minion marks your chest with a blade that will kill you if you can’t find a way to cure the poison first.  And it turns out that rather than being nobody special, you might just be the someone with a remarkable destiny . . .

Do you remember:

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The Blade of the Poisoner by Douglas Arthur Hill (Margaret K. McElderry Books, c1987)

Jarral always thought he was just an ordinary farmer’s son, growing up in the rural countryside.  Maybe dreaming of adventure, but never really believing he was anything out of the ordinary.  Until Prince Mephtik the Poisoner comes to town and destroys the farmstead–and cuts Jarral with an enchanted blade that will condemn any cut with it to die (if memory serves, within a month’s time).  Archer, a  woman with extraordinary archery skills frees Jarral, and he joins with several other talented young people to find a way to stop the blade’s curse–and put an end to The Poisoner.  In the process Jarral comes to discover he has his own special abilities, elemental powers that are feared by their enemies and could just help to save everyone.

I grew up when Dungeons and Dragons was the hot thing among the older teens.  Epic fantasy worlds full of different races and types of warriors, battles with monsters and between good and evil.  Lots of action and motley teams of talented individuals questing all together.  For anyone who has been around the fantasy castle a few times, all this stuff can be considered cliche–often painfully so.   But there has to be a starting point.  A place at which younger readers jump into the tropes of the genre and become familiar with them.

This short and straight-forward fantasy offers a perfect introduction for new readers just beginning to understand epic fantasy.  This was my platform that provided another building block in my identity as a reader.  I loved the idea of adventuring with a group of heroes with different talents.  A world rich in magic and creatures of good and evil.  The special talents each individual possessed that were both a gift and a curse.  I actually started this two-book story with the second title:

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Master of Fiends by Douglas Hill (Margaret K. McElderry, c1987)

I was thrown into the story where characters had already been introduced and the heroes were on the second leg of their mission to defeat the main evil.  It’s actually this book that lives with me the most.  The dark sword that sings to our heroic blind swordsman and comes to be the perfect weapon for him.  Jarral mastering his newfound powers as a Firebrand.  And the vivid ending that involves a deity getting involved (though I won’t offer more of a spoiler than that).   Young readers looking for the language and elements of traditional epic fantasy adventure will find them here in digestible form.

Both books are out of print and fairly obscure, but fondly remembered.

Douglas Arthur Hill was a Canadian science fiction and fantasy writer who is possibly best known for his Last Legionary series and Colsec series.  Both are lightweight space adventure science fiction series for middle grade readers that were published in the 1980s.   (Sadly out of print.  I haven’t had the opportunity to read either series.)

Any Douglas Hill fans out there?  Comments welcome!

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About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on March 1, 2014, in Flashback Fridays, General Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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